Remember when IT bosses obsessed about “the stack”--the myriad layers of software and tech architecture that drove a company’s back-end systems and technology needs?

The Internet, of course, turned the stack on its head--as did the more recent, massive boom in mobile technologies. As a result, the need for tech managers to deploy and customize the right apps, tools, cloud services, and other solutions to match organizational and employee needs has never been more important. Today’s mobile knowledge workers want access to all their data at any time, in any place, and on any device.

This has big consequences for CEOs. Typical business IT has shifted away from managing a highly controlled base of tools and hardware to the BYOD era in which it must support a wide array of devices running on different operating systems. This requires a change in attitude from the old-school device management towards a new concept of user management (something my company focuses on). That means you must focus less on command-and-control and more on optimization of behavior to help employees get stuff done with all those cool new tools.

So what does the new “mobile stack” look like? It’s a nascent enterprise, of course, but growing quickly. Here’s a look at its critical layers: 

Basic Services

The foundation layer of the mobile stack should manage basic elements of your company’s mobility program.

  • Procurement: The mobile stack doesn’t exist without the devices. Finding an online service that can handle bulk device orders is a simple way to acquire and activate devices for your company.
  • Device management: Mobile managers should be able to easily add or delete devices from the company program--or move or change the status of other users' devices, if need be.
  • Expense tracking: Now that individual employees usually have a mobile plan under their own name (and receive reimbursements or stipends), tracking expenses becomes more difficult and much more important.

Risk Management

Risk-management and compliance programs are critical as more sensitive data is stored on mobile devices and in the cloud.

  • Device/Data Security: Basic device security measures like remote wipe, locking, password resets, or GPS tracking help ensure that lost or stolen phones can be recovered without company-sensitive information being exposed. Encrypt sensitive documents, establish safe containers for company email and network access, and set virtual boundaries.
  • Disaster Recovery: In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, companies are realizing the benefit of having disaster recovery software and business-continuity services. Invest in cloud-based backups to ensure that sensitive information won't be lost or wiped out in a disaster.
  • Policy and Compliance: Mobile risk management tools can help codify and enforce company policies and regulations as they relate to mobility. Your company must set parameters around what data can be accessed by whom and from where. It’s important to know what your employees are doing with company technology.

Productivity Tools

A cluster of new apps and tools are helping people do more with their phones: Make these tools the core of your company mobile platform. 

  • Cloud Service and Storage: A cloud service that allows company data to be stored and accessed from anywhere there is mobile service or Wi-Fi connection is imperative to the mobile stack. You need mobility behind your data.
  • Custom App Development: Businesses today are racing to transpose the programs they use everyday into mobile applications. This practice is fundamentally reshaping how, where, and when work gets done. Mobile app-management tools help companies develop and test those apps, and then deliver them to employees through either their own app stores or via Apple iTunes or Google Play.
  • App Management: Customized app management services not only help build, deliver, and update these programs, but also provide a glimpse into how your employees are interacting with them.

Strategy and Optimization

At the top of the new stack should be a focus on efficiency and strategy. You need to measure and optimize your mobility program to get the most out of it.

  • Visibility Platform: By being able to see exactly how employees are interacting with their devices, mobile managers can not only extract valuable information about what processes can be mobilized immediately, but can also make real-time adjustments to the mobile program.

Todays' enterprise mobile market resembles an alphabet soup of competing tools, all promising to be the be-all-end-alls. Instead of thinking about these tools as being better than one another, think about how to pick the right combination to have the new mobile stack align best to your business.